Travel | August 2, 2022 7:33 am

Legitimate Space Tourism Is Just Over the Horizon

Forget Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, these are the futuristic travel companies to know

A rendering of the Spaceship Neptune capsule from space tourism company Space Perspective
The Spaceship Neptune capsule, from Space Perspective, is now in production in Florida.
Space Perspective

Forget about the dueling billionaires and their phallic rockets for a moment, and set your gaze upon the horizon, the actual horizon, of viable space tourism. Within the next five years, a slate of companies are planning to launch their own celestial travel operations, each of which has a unique spin on the concept of promising a truly out of this world experience.

While these providers won’t be quite as easy and accessible to book as, say, a weekender to the Caribbean, they begin at prices in the realm of the cost and exclusivity of the super luxury vacations you may already be dreaming about, whether a high-end African safari or a luxe Antarctic cruise. The prices certainly go sky-high from there, but why not shoot for the stars for your next dream sojourn? 

“We are at the very early stages of this new space travel industry,” says Jane Poynter, the founder and co-CEO of Space Perspective. “No one could imagine how airplanes would change all our lives in the very early days of aviation. The same is true for spaceflight.” Better prepare for lift-off, then.

Putting the puns aside for a brief moment, here’s a primer on the space travel companies you need to know.

A rendering of the interior of Space Perspective's capsule which will bring tourists to the edge of space
Sit back, relax and enjoy the SpaceBalloon flight.
Space Perspective

Space Perspective

  • What It Is: A six-hour ride up to 100,000 ft. altitude propelled by its SpaceBalloon
  • Launching: 2024
  • Price: $125,000 per person. Flights for 2024 are sold out, but bookings for 2025 and beyond can be made here with a refundable $1,000 deposit.

Founded in 2019, Space Perspective plans to use its football field-sized SpaceBalloon to take eight travelers at a time on a six-hour voyage to an altitude of 100,000 feet. “Our mission is to transform private space travel with a radically gentle approach compared to other high-octane, physically grueling — and very brief — forays into space,” Poynter says.

Aboard the luxuriously appointed Spaceship Neptune, explorers will gain vantages of the planet of 450 miles in every direction. The company emphasizes the perks of the “radically gentle” experience, from the pressurized capsule to comfortable reclining seats to food and drink. Key to the venture is that the SpaceBalloon itself has been flown over 1,000 times without failure, while the capsule that passengers ride in stays secured to that balloon for the entire voyage.

Space Perspective began holding test flights in 2021, and is aiming for 2023 piloted flights followed by a 2024 commercial launch for tourism purposes, with plans to operate from Florida’s Space Coast Spaceport and the Kennedy Space Center. 

“There is no rigorous training, no weightlessness, and no high G-forces — and hours of unprecedented views through 360-degree windows, rather than a few minutes to peer out the window,” Poynter says. It’s all about the comfortable ride and the unbeatable view. Oh, and there will be wifi so you can beam jealousy-inducing live streams to your friends back home.

A rendering of the World View space tourism capsule that will fly with a stratospheric balloon
Like Space Perspective, World View is planning to use a capsule attached to a gigantic stratospheric balloon.
World View

World View

  • What It Is: 6-12 hour stratospheric balloon rides paired with “world wonder” tourism
  • Launching: 2024
  • Price: $50,000 per person. Bookings can be made here with a refundable $500 deposit.

World View plans to take travelers to the edge of space, up to 100,000 feet in altitude, via 6-12 hour stratospheric balloon rides. High-end food and drink, luxurious seating and boundless views are all on offer, with eight passengers booked per session. Unmanned flights will begin in 2023, with commercial flights planned for 2024. In July, the company announced plans to fly the Chainsmokers in order to host the first musicians “to perform at the edge-of-space.” 

Unique to World View will be its approach of departing from locations tied to the Wonders of the World. Initial launch points will include the Grand Canyon and the Great Barrier Reef, with future sites including the Serengeti in Kenya, the Pyramids of Giza and the Great Wall of China, among others. “Before launching, spaceflight participants will enjoy a five-day immersive experience exploring the biodiversity, ancient history and ecological wonders of these destinations,” says Dale Hipsh, the president of tourism and exploration at World View. “The contrast between these on-the-ground tours and extraordinary spaceflight experience provide an unparalleled opportunity to gain new perspectives and new appreciation for our planet.”

That pairing of an incredible trip encompassing a worldly wonder and an otherworldly flight is key to World View’s particular appeal. And not to be overlooked is that it’s the most affordable entrant on the market. “The cost of a World View ticket is noticeably lower than any other civilian space tourism flight available today and is a first step towards making this life-changing experience more attainable — one of our key pillars,” Hipsh says.

That’s part of what Hipsh calls being an Earth-focused space company. “Through transformative experiences that inspire a new appreciation for Earth, World View’s space tourism arm has the capacity to effect real change in how we view and treat our planet,” he says. “Our goal is to create opportunities to shift perspectives about the planet we inhabit.”

A rendering of the Voyager Station space hotel from space tourism company Orbital Assembly
A rendering of the Voyager Station space hotel, which is hoping to open in 2027.
Orbital Assembly

Voyager Station

  • What It Is: A fully-functional space hotel
  • Launching: 2027
  • Price: Estimated $5 million for a three-night stay

More in the conceptual rather than imminent-launch stage is Voyager Station, a space hotel project that hopes to begin construction in 2026 and launch to the public by 2027. The Orbital Assembly venture is planning for a livable space station straight out of your favorite sci-fi films, with a rotating craft making use of centrifugal-force generated artificial gravity.

The module-based Voyager Station is intended to be able to accommodate up to 280 guests, combining luxury resort life with a splash of low gravity and stellar views. Spacecraft will theoretically be able to dock directly with the station, allowing passengers and cargo to come and go with relative ease, while life aboard the vessel will include gourmet restaurants, entertainment, a bar, and a gym and activity center offering sports and recreation in a 1/6th gravity environment.

Guests will be able to book hotel suites starting at three days and up to a month, while private villas will also be available for weekly and monthly rentals. These villas will even be available for purchase, and are planned to be up to 5,300 sq. ft. in size with accommodations for up to 16 people.

All told, the project is planned to have over 125,000 square feet of habitable space, and as of now is slated to become the largest man-made structure in space upon its completion. If you want to keep tabs on their progress, keep an eye on Pioneer Station, a work-and-play facility the company wants to have operational by 2025.

A rendering of the OceanSky Cruises airship that is planning to fly to the North Pole
If you’re not ready for space travel, what about an airship?
Tom Hegen/Kirt-Thomsen via OceanSky

Not-Quite-Space Bonus Option: OceanSky

  • What It Is: Overnight North Pole airship voyages
  • Launching: 2024
  • Price: $220,000 for a double cabin

Consider this a space-adjacent addition to the list, but one that’s novel enough to warrant inclusion in a collection of futuristic, bucket-list travel options. OceanSky Cruises is planning to bring luxury airship travel back to the limelight, while taking passengers to the edge of the planet.

“We stand for values such as sustainability and innovation, and we want to recover a sustainable way of traveling enhanced with 21st century technology,” says Carl-Oscar Lawaczeck, founder and CEO of OceanSky Cruises. “A way of traveling in which you can reach remote places on the planet without the need for infrastructure and without leaving a footprint.”

The concept will be demonstrated with 36-hour pleasure cruises, comparable to luxury yachting at sea, aboard eight-cabin airships departing from Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago, and continuing to the North Pole. The real plan is even loftier though, and it’s to transform the aviation industry using a hyper-efficient and eco-friendly form of travel.

“The world is in dire need of an airborne transportation system that can cross seas and land, using the atmosphere as infrastructure, in a sustainable way,” Lawaczeck says. “We are an airline of airships, and we want to lead the new era of sustainable aviation through large scale airships.”

OceanSky’s inaugural voyage to the geographic North Pole, slated for 2024, will be the first of its kind. “This first expedition will be historic as no airship has ever landed at the North Pole,” Lawaczeck says. “It will be a journey that will usher in a new era of sustainable aviation that we at OceanSky Cruises will lead.”